This continues my series of bold predictions for the Braves this season. If you missed any of the previous parts of this series, follow the links below.
Matt Olson doubters will soon be no more once the season begins. The 28-year-old lefty from Parkview High School is back home, and he couldn’t have returned at a better time. Olson is just entering his prime. In his last two full seasons (2019, 2021), he has an OPS+ of 139 and 153, respectively. The average may not be there like it was with Freeman, but Olson more than makes up for it with his ability to mash balls out of the yard. He might even have the most power on the team, which is saying something when your teammates consist of Ronald Acuña, Austin Riley, and Adam Duvall.
The franchise record for home runs is 51, set by Andruw Jones back in 2005. Last season, Olson hit a career-high 39 homers for the Oakland A’s. That’s a substantial gap, but there are a few reasons I believe he can close that this season.
First and foremost is the park. The Oakland Coliseum is a graveyard for left-handed hitters. It’s where towering fly balls go to die, turning into long fly outs. When Olson arrives at Truist Park on Opening Day and sees that short porch in right field with the Chop House sitting on top, a tear might fall gracefully down his face. It will be that appealing of a sight for the left-handed slugger, who will be peppering fans in the area with balls for 81 games out of the season. The switch in ballparks alone should account for at least an extra five homers a season.
Secondly is the lineup around him. This is no slight to the A’s, who have been pretty good over the last several years, but the Braves are set to have one of the most powerful lineups ever put together. Once Ronald Acuña returns, Olson will likely be hitting behind Acuña and in front of Austin Riley. Pitchers will have no choice but to throw to Olson, and this lineup is going to bat around like a Ferris wheel at times. Hitting is contagious, and I think Olson will benefit tremendously from being on this Braves team, just like many guys before him.
If Olson stays healthy all season, I don’t think 40 homers is even a question. He will easily eclipse that number; however, can he get to 51? That’s quite the jump, but this series is all about being bold, right? I say Olson racks up 52 home runs and become the franchise’s all-time single-season home run leader.
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) April 4, 2022